Over the years I have come in contact with many people who have a particular attitude toward their spirituality that is rather common among Christians. It is an attitude that I, at a time, blew off as relatively harmless at worst, and temporarily therapeutic at best.

Not too long ago I was talking with a gal whose spirituality I was assessing for the purpose of leadership. She had a strong Christian background and an Evangelical heritage. While having a casual discussion about these things, I asked her “Do you love God? . . . Why?” I ask this of just about everyone whom I get close to in the church. She was hesitant in her answer. Finally, in essence, this is what she said, “I know God, but I don’t like him right now.” The “right now” was meant to communicate that her positive passions for God had been put on hold and replaced with animosity. In other words, it was not apathy, but anger. It starts with anger, then naturally moves to something worse—apathy.

(Necessary parenthetical comment coming.)

It is often said that hate is the opposite of love. I don’t think this is true. In order to truly hate someone, one must have quite a bit of emotion invested in that person. It may be negative emotion, but it is an emotion of concern for the individual. It may be bad, but it has yet to breach the antinomy of love. Apathy is the complete lack of emotion, concern, or care in any way for the other. It is the bankruptcy of feeling.

(Tuck that away just for a moment and we will get back to it.)

The gal that I talked to had yet to become apathetic toward God. There was simply something she was angry about. Maybe it was a particular characteristic about him that she did not like. Maybe it was something he had allowed or does allow that she did not agree with in her life or the life of others.

My counsel was not very good. I actually encouraged her in this. I told her that this was not only okay, but it is often healthy to allow yourself to be angry with God. I brought up examples of David in the Psalms to illustrate. My counsel ended there. This caused her to settle more in her negative thoughts about God.

It has been many years and I still know this gal. She is different. Her spirituality has grown, but not in a positive way. In fact, she has gone from anger to apathy. Her answer to my question (“Do you love God? . . .Why?) would be, “I don’t really care.” She has allowed herself to entertain a new solution to coping with the anger—letting go of all emotion completely. “I don’t care about God. He does what he does and we just have to deal with it. I know him, but I am not concerned. I just get on with my life and try to navigate his movements as best I can.”

Apathy is actually a defense mechanism in all relationships. When we cannot change the one we love, when they don’t live up to our standard, when they repeatedly do things we don’t like, we just disconnect. I understand this. It is often the only course of action when it comes to human sinful relationships, but when it comes to our relationship with God, it is very dangerous.

There are a few ways for us to deal with anger toward God. Let me illustrate the two wrong ones C.S. Lewis style:

BAD OPTION #1: Recreate God

Us: I can’t believe God is so absent. I can’t believe that he claims to be in control and yet allows this in my life. God, you are not there when I really need you. I don’t like you at all.

Satan: It is not that you don’t like God, it is just that you don’t know him the way you should. There are many interpretations and approaches to choose from. Just find the one’s that work best for you.

This happens when God has characteristics that we don’t like. We simply mold him into something that is more like-able. This way we don’t have to become apathetic. This will affect our doctrine as our theology is molded around what we believe is the most palatable.

BAD OPTION #2: Apathy

Us: I can’t believe that God continues to allow this to happen. I am so angry at him.

Satan: Good. Stand your ground. He thinks he can do whatever he wants. You are right to feel this way because you are human, he is not. He does not really understand. Don’t listen to that blabber about “fully-God, fully-man.” He was never really human the way others are.

Us: But how do I deal with these emotions? They are eating me up!

Satan: Let them go.

Us: Let them go where?

Satan: Out of existence. He is not going to change. Believe me. He is the most stubborn God there every was. No one can change him. But you can get on with your life. You can know him, but just don’t care about him anymore.

This “road to apathy” is just as dangerous as option 1. In fact, in many ways, I believe that it is more dangerous. However, in both, there is a common characteristic that makes each possible: pride. In essence, we put our views, opinions, the way we would do things if we were God, above his. We take the moral high ground.

It starts with anger. We sit in judgment upon the Lord. We think that “our eyes” have a clearer and better view of life. We place God before our tribunal and find his righteousness wanting. Once God has been deemed guilty, we move on knowing we can’t change him. This “moving on” is our way of coping with the anger. Anger has just turned to apathy. The antinomy of love has just been realized and we have justified it due to our own pride.

We must be very careful when we get angry with God. When we don’t like him this is no less than saying that he is lacking a characteristic that we believe should be present. Or it is that we believe that he possesses a characteristic that we judge should not be present. Either way, we sit in judgment upon him and consider our own righteousness to be greater than his. In order to carry on—in order to cope—we either change the unchangeable or we disregard him as sovereign in our lives.

If you feel anger toward God deal with it. Pray for submission. Pray for humility. Pray for your own change. Resist every temptation to change him or to “move on.” The Christian worldview does not allow us to change him nor to entertain apathy. To stand in judgment upon God is the worst of all positions to become comfortable with. I imagine there are a lot of people who know God, but don’t like him. I certainly understand this. Believe me. But, in the end, everything he does is right and good even though it may not seem to be such. Every way he is, every attribute and every action, is perfect. We are not the standard, he is. We are not his judge, he is ours.

When he says that he is love and that he cares for us, when he says that he will never leave us for forsake us, when he says that all things are working together for good, when he says that he is in control, when he says that he is bringing an end to pain, when he says that he is going to wipe away every tear from our eyes, then let us fall in love with the one who does not lie and does not change. Let us fall in love with the judge, not become an apathetic judge.

In short, I no longer believe that it is healthy to entertain unresolved anger toward the Lord. “I know God, but don’t like him” is not good. To truly know God is to trust him and love him.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    41 replies to "I Know God, But I Don't Like Him"

    • rayner markley

      Michael, if you had asked ‘Do you like Jesus?’ do you think she would have answered differently? And why didn’t you ask that question?

      We are told to love God, but it seems to have a catch. As is the case with people, we love them but do not like everything they do. Love transcends such reservations, even ignores them.

    • Scott Ferguson

      I was going to say that there aren’t more than a handful of people who believe in God but oppose Him on principle or out of anger. Then I remembered Mark Twain who, while professing non-belief, railed against God in his last years. Yet this is a far cry from genuine apathy. I am willing to bet that the woman you describe still fears God. Perhaps her show of apathy helps her cope with a difficult and bewildering situation but, like Twain, her anger is still there, lurking, ready to show itself when the stress becomes too much.

      Advertisement: You too can be psycho-analysed from the comfort of your own laptop. Send no emails – contact with or knowledge of the subject is not required! 🙂

    • Scott Ferguson

      I am left wondering if the supposed perils of Bad Option #1 are just as great, if not greater in their insidiousness, when motivated by other, less visible, emotional states. I have to say that I see people molding God on a pretty regular basis.

    • […] » I noticed that Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen has written an interesting post, I know God, but I don’t like him. Therein he discusses an episode in his life where he counseled a young lady to explore anger she […]

    • Lisa Robinson

      I wonder if the difference between opting for door #1 vs. door #2 hinges on our view of the sovereignty of God (I will not use the C and A words here). The one who holds a high view of God’s sovereignty recognizes that he is control and resistance is futile. Better to just be numb and resort to a kind of fatalism, thereby opting for #2. Whereas, a less restricted view may determine God to be changeable (?), and therefore its most likely that he is X rather than the Y we thought he was so #1 seems to do the trick. I dunno, just a thought.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      I think this is one of the best posts you’ve ever written. Great pastoral insights into our sinfulness.

      FWIW, couple minor errors. You write “council” when the correct word is “counsel”. [Noted and corrected. Thanks! – ed.]

      Pax.

    • Jason C

      My own view is that liking or disliking God is irrelevant. I’m not asked to like him, only obey him, which is a very different thing.

      I know someone who would make a dig at Americans and their willingness to replace a king, elected by that most chance of processes, an accident of birth, with a president, elected for no other reason than his willingness to give people what they wanted, but I wouldn’t do a thing like that.

    • Minnow

      Humm…and then there’s the idea that we love God as self-centeredly as we hate (are angered by) Him. Our seeing is always through the lenses of our own lives, experiences, minds.

    • rayner markley

      Yes, Minnow, man is the measure of all things. That’s the freedom that God gave us and that Adam took advantage of. If God wanted our love, He had to earn it, and He did so at the cross.

      By the way, what’s the difference between loving and liking? In a way, loving is the easier because it disregards the surface things that annoy us and confuse us.

      • Gray

        “He had to earn it, and did so at the cross” This always burns me up! It’s called a gift, but what if the receiver didn’t want it? Is it still a gift then? Who decides? I never asked him to die for me…it breaks me that I have to live indebted to one who “gave” that which I did not ask for. And of course the old standby answer is “well, you have free will..you don’t have to follow after the Lord” but, I’m sorry, saying “choose me or go to hell” is not exactly free will. ugh. I hate this.

    • Lisa S.

      This is a great post.

    • Scripture Zealot

      I believe that some people legitimize their anger with Got in part because of a misinterpretation of Revelation 3:15. They believe God thinks it’s OK to be cold toward God for a time as long as we’re one or the other which isn’t what that verse is talking about at all.
      Jeff

    • Susan

      A great follow-up to the ‘Uncle’ post (and it’s subsequent comments).

    • steve martin

      Jesus says to us, “If you love me you will keep my commandments”.

      I guess, down deep, none of us really love Him.

      At least not in the way that we ought.

      But the great thing is, that he really loves us.

    • Cadis

      eeeks, that picture of the sand sculpture is creepy but it suited the post and the post was very good.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Kim (Cadis), I agree about the pic. And if we’re honest, that’s exactly how we feel at times. I know I do 🙁

    • Joshua

      What does one do with the lamenting Psalms and Lamentations?

      I find it hard to see Jeremiah “jumping for joy” while he was in that pit (however long it was)…

      From Scripture it certainly seems like there is a “season” for being angry, but it is never ment to be the constant state.

      So I guess here is my question:

      Does God care how we feel? Or are we suppose to just “truck on” and be obeident through our emotional states?

    • Jugulum

      Michael,

      My counsel was not very good. I actually encouraged her in this. I told her that this was not only okay, but it is often healthy to allow yourself to be angry with God. I brought up examples of David in the Psalms to illustrate.
      […]
      In short, I no longer believe that it is healthy to entertain unresolved anger toward the Lord. “I know God, but don’t like him” is not good. To truly know God is to trust him and love him.

      Looking back at your bad advice, I’m trying to figure out if there was any truth in it. Or maybe, figure out if there was a valid inference from the Psalms about expressing anger, just not the one that you made.

      Let me throw out an idea. I’ve thought about it before, and your post is helping me to flesh it out a bit more. You can tell me what you think about it:

      Like you said, it’s never good to be angry with God. If we’re angry with him, it means that we misunderstand him, or that our hearts are still rebellious against him in some way. It means that we’re not trusting & loving him, and we do need to resolve that. For our own good, and for his glory.

      But if we’re angry, we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. We shouldn’t just bury it. If we’re thinking/feeling “I know God, but don’t like him”, then that’s bad–but if that’s what’s in our minds, we should be honest about it. Mind you, there are very bad ways to give voice to our anger–there’s venting, and blasphemy. But it’s also possible to report our anger (definitely privately, maybe publicly) without entertaining/encouraging it.

      But the purpose of expressing it is more about confessing & resolving it. Not relishing & encouraging it.

    • Jugulum

      Jason C,

      My own view is that liking or disliking God is irrelevant. I’m not asked to like him, only obey him, which is a very different thing.

      Eh? What about, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength”? How is it possible to obey him without liking him, when the greatest commandment has to do with our heart toward him?

      I agree that it’s possible to start obeying him even when our hearts still harbor dislike. But the attitudes of our hearts are definitely not irrelevant.

    • Jason C

      If you love me, obey my commandments.

      😛

      Love =/= like. Love has more to do with allegiance and obedience.

    • Jugulum

      “Love has more to do with allegiance and obedience.”

      Tell that to your wife. See how that works out. 🙂

      If that’s true, where did you learn this? Seriously–have you based that on a study of Hebrew and Greek concepts of love? What’s your source?

      There’s also the whole concept of “worship” to factor in, which is more than simply saying words. To worship in spirit and in truth… It’s hard to see how that can happen in the midst of a heart turned against God.

    • David Zook

      I am amazed how David works through his emotions with God. He starts off with some sort of beef or a serious question, but by the end of the Psalm he is praising God to one degree or another.

      I think that it is healthy to wrestle with God, but never lose sight that He is the Maker of the heavens and the earth and that he rules and reigns from above.

    • Dave Z

      The two greatest commandments – love God, love others. Studied that once and was amazed at the result. I knew that obedience was part of loving God, but was shocked at how that concept fills Scripture; it’s everywhere. Loving God is centered on obedience and to my mind, obedience=worship.

      We can be obedient even if we are angry. I think kids do that with parents when they do the right thing even though they don’t want to and are angry about it.

      I get angry at my wife sometimes, but I do not stop loving her.

    • C Michael Patton

      This post does not say that we cannot get angry or do not, it is just that we should not attempt to justify that anger as something that is healthy. Anger ultimately attempts to put your judgment above God’s, but that is only if you are angry at him, not the situation. I think we must learn to separate the two. Ultimately it is an issue of trust which we all struggle with. The struggle is a necessary evil that can birth deeper trust, apathy, or an strangled theology. Ultimately, it can also lead to a complete departure from the faith.

      My point in this post is that we should not be accepting of our own anger toward God. We must deal with it rather than letting it become who we are.

      This is personal therapy in some sense.

    • Jugulum

      David Zook,

      I think that it is healthy to wrestle with God, but never lose sight that He is the Maker of the heavens and the earth and that he rules and reigns from above.

      Hmm…

      Outside Christ, we wrestle with God in order to master him. Inside Christ, we wrestle in order to be mastered.

    • Jason C

      Tell that to your wife. See how that works out.

      Not married, engaged.

      Also, I don’t expect to love my wife the way I love God, for one I won’t be “obeying” her. 😛

      However the concept of love as allegiance and loyalty is found in marriage. Romantic love is a thrill (well it would be a thrill to someone capable of emotions) but I think it should always be seen as icing rather than cake. If you based a marriage on romantic love it’d be a real roller-coaster ride.

    • Kevin Ritchey

      Just a comment on the hate versus love versus apathy argument.

      The argument that hate is not the opposite of love but apathy focuses on the energy involved. But energy is not what defines love. Love is an action, an emotion, a committment, a direction, a lot of things, and all these things require energy.

      Hate is also an action, an emotion, a committment, a direction, etc… and all those things require energy.

      Apathy is the absence of either hate or love. It is not the opposite of anything, but the absence of everything.

      Saying that apathy is the opposite of love is just as valid as saying that apathy is the absence of hate. It is a non sequitur.

      But forgive me, I used to argue for a living, so little arguments that sound good but have no basis in logic irritate me unnecessarily. Your blog point is valid regardless of my point. Good job, keep up the good work.

    • Kevin Ritchey

      Also, I’m surprised there was no mention of God’s response to anger directed towards God. How did He respond to Adam (Hey, the woman you gave me…) or Moses (why did you bring us up out of here..) or Job (Where were you oh man…)

      I don’t think it very wise to communicate anger towards God without first fully understanding whether your anger is justified, appropriate, and not misplaced. For to do so is to be at enmity with God and didn’t Christ blood purchase us peace with God?

      Anger towards God is always centered on our disappointment with God and that is an attitude of self-centered self-worship. It decries God as unjust, as wicked.

      To have compassion on one who so incorrectly sees God that they are willing to judge God is one thing. To counsel them in that foolish pursuit is quite another. (although I don’t think you would continue in that direction today)

    • Richard

      Thank you for another great article, Michael. I’ve tried to point out this love vs. apathy truth to several friends over the years, but this is the first time I’ve heard anyone else explain the contrast. In my explanations I use the word “disinterested” instead of “apathy”, but…same path, same destination (and same pain). The opposite of love is truly not hate, but disinterest/apathy. I wish my beautiful and wonderfully Christian daughters hated me….Then again, perhaps you just inadvertently brought back too many sweet memories–that I’ve learned, by necessity, to box.
      Thank you. Truly, Thank you.
      Richard

    • Stan Hankins

      Obama is not the anti-Christ. Anti Christ is much smarter , slicker, with much more power.

      I will give you that Obama is an exceedingly evil man, and would probably love to be the Anti Christ, but it is not yet time for the man of lawlessness to be revealed. Rather, Obama is a “type” of the Anti Christ. Having a form of godliness but denying its power.

      Many people thought Adolf Hitler was the Anti Christ and he came to nothing. Not yet time.

      • India Jackson

        Yes you are right. Obama is not the anti-christ. Donald Trump is you fool!

    • Matthew

      I’m late to this discussion – but I just can’t seem to move past where I’m at.

      It comes down to this – Christians are no better/worse than the average _____ (pagan, atheist, hindu, muslim, etc.), and I have a really hard time imagining God treating us different based on our religious upbringing. I was raised fundamentalist Christian (protestant) by loving parents. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood, other than believing what the Bible has in it (demons, Satan, the majority of the world going to burn forever and ever in hell with no hope of a second chance b/c they didn’t believe in a specific story about a specific deity).

      So although I’ve begged God to give me grace, mercy and salvation – and in the past really believed he did – at some point my mind just couldn’t accept it’s OK for me to go to heaven but the entire world’s gonna burn.

      So I guess I’m left with Option #3: Do any of us really know a ____ thing about God, what he wants, etc?

    • Machelle

      I’m SO sick of this. A person can do all the right things. A person can pray, worship, honor, blah, blah, blah and STILL, God does NOTHING positive in their lives. I know. I’m living proof of this. I have suffered for 40 years and still, not one freaking sign of God’s love. I have suffered through my father being murdered, then my mom dying 2 years after that, then being thrown from one foster home to the other for 9 years, all the while being molested and beaten and starved and abused in ways cable doesn’t even show. In the last 5 months, I have lost my job, my savings, my house and my only son at 15 years old. I am currently homeless with a 4 year old autistic child. And where is God? Exactly! The same place he has been for the last 40 years-ABSENT. Two weeks before my son died he wondered if God was racist. He could not understand how and why blacks have endured so many hardships compared to other races. He had many doubts and I expressed mine in turn. I don’t know what God is, but ever loving, ever present, and all that other crap we’ve been forced to believe in church all these years, is just that-crap! Everyone sins in one way or the other. But I dont drink, I don’t sleep around, I dont club or do drugs. When I was able I gave to the homeless. I donated my time and clothings, etc. I prayed every night and every morning. I read my bible faithfully. Etc. Etc. Still, no God. Not once. Not ever. BUT, we have to keep worshipping Him and praising Him, eventhough he hasn’t shown Himself not ever in our lives. Whatever!

    • Anny

      I don’t like God because he makes innocent animals suffer

    • Laura

      The feeling of “I believe in God, but don’t particularly like Him” is something I’ve felt for quite a while now. I don’t necessarily feel angry towards Him… and I don’t think I would classify my feelings as apathetic either. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. What I’m wondering is what happens to you if you feel this way. If I died tomorrow feeling the way I do, would I still go to Heaven since technically I’m a believer? Would I not since I don’t feel like I love Him and have a good relationship with him?

      • Gray

        I am in that exact boat. I often wonder if I died tomorrow, would He be understanding and sympathetic to the fact that I know and believe in Him but simply don’t like Him? Is that a sin-not to like the Creator of Heaven and Earth? Is what I feel enough to get me in to heaven? That’s all I really want… Everyday life feels a bit hellish, I don’t want to spend an eternity there. Once in heaven, I think I’d be content to never see or hear from/about/of God again (crazy, I know-it’s heaven! But still!) Hope we get some answers we can live with.

    • Layla

      I feel for you Machelle. I hope your life is better now.

      I also feel the same– I dont like God much.

      I feel he has favorites.

    • Bradshaw

      “If you’re mad at God, deal with it” ??
      Wow.. solid advice there 🙇🏼‍♀️

      Basically “ask Him to make you okay with all the things you feel are not okay about Him that made you mad in the first place and maybe you’ll wake up one day and suddenly feel totally fine with all crappy stuff He does that also made you mad in the first place.”

      A for effort 😒

    • Angerrr

      Aw you just gave me an idea of becoming apathetic with God and now I’m scared it may happen

    • RMR

      I am seriously stuck here. Believe but don’t like. It is an awful place to be stuck in. Been like this for 20+ years. My life has been a waste of oxygen because if you don’t have peace you can’t do much or do anything well. Loved ones have died and I was completely useless to them. I wish I was willing to submit and be humbled, but I sincerely don’t want to. People who actually want to are very fortunate. I wish I could see God/Jesus in a positive way. People at church are happy or at least content. We heard the same sermons, experienced the same Bible study groups, but for some reason I perceive everything in negative ways.

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